From Working-Class Roots to Award-Winning Filmmaker: My Journey of Passion, Perseverance, and the Power of Recognition
I grew up against the backdrop of a post-industrial Coatbridge (Glasgow, Scotland) in the 1990’s. It’s one of those forgotten towns that are subject to endless ‘regeneration’ projects though never seem to be able to claw back the good-old-days. I endured the typical chaos of a working-class Catholic family in the Central Belt and have my fair share of associated baggage. I was aimless in school despite having a genuine love of knowledge and learning. I was wild and reckless in adolescence and abandoned future planning in the way only a teenager can. None of the elements of my childhood directed me towards a career in TV and Film and yet I find myself taking my first steps into an industry that often feels completely inaccessible to people of my ilk.
I attribute my current position to one unwavering quality I possess: the need to tell stories. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved storytelling in every form. I love reading, and writing, and talking. I love poems, essays, and books. I love communication, connection, and understanding. It wasn’t until I’d braved several failed attempts at university studying English, Philosophy, History and Psychology, while juggling an endless string of brain-numbing customer service jobs, that it finally hit me that the thing I needed to do with my life was tell stories. I’d carried the guilt of describing myself as a creative person with nothing to show for it for too long. I’d spent years in dusty corners of the library pouring over other people’s words and tried to use them to fill the void inaction had left behind. And so, a last-ditch attempt to find some sort of catharsis for all of this pent-up passion resulted in an application to a TV and Film course at Cumbernauld College. At 24, I felt like the Crypt-Keeper as I took my place amongst the fresh-face 16-year-olds, kept my head down, and tried to convince myself that I deserved to be there.
That was 6 years ago. And now, on the precipice of 30, the lightness of youth inside me finally matches my perpetual moon-face, which still gets me ID’d when I try to buy a scratch card. The sheer joy that I have experienced in finding my passion in life has filled me to the brim with energy and excitement. The moment I realised that I could tell stories visually and make a career out of it was a true paradigm shift in my life trajectory.
I regularly meet people in this industry who tell me that they knew they wanted to be a filmmaker from the moment they picked up their dad’s video camera and started making home movies. That will never be my story. I didn’t know I always wanted to do this. I didn’t have a dad who was there enough to let me have a shot of his video camera, let alone could we even afford a video camera. I found this in adulthood. I beat on, boat against the current, and forged a path to an industry that doesn’t always welcome everyone with open arms.
From Cumbernauld College, I went on to study a BA in filmmaking at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and for the last year, I have worked as the office runner at Raise the Roof Productions. All my experiences within these organisations have been incredibly valuable and immensely rewarding. However, my life has massively changed since winning my first Royal Television Society Awards back in April 2022. At the RTS Student Scotland Awards 2022, I won the ‘Best Factual’ award and the craft award for Writing for my short film ‘The Space I Occupy.’ I then went on to win ‘Best Student Film’ at the RTS Scotland awards in October 2022.
Though recognition for my work is undoubtedly a great honour, the true value in winning these awards has been how it has completely catapulted me into being ever closer to living the life of my dreams. I work full time in the industry I love directly because of RTS. I have had countless opportunities to network with very important people and gained experience on real professional STV film crews directly because of RTS. I was able to quit my rubbish weekend job in customer service that drained my creative energy and focus all of my motivation on screenwriting, directly because of RTS.
I wholly recognise that this level of privilege is not awarded to everyone at the start of their career and I will always carry that with me. I am incredibly lucky to be in the position I am. It was hard fought for and I’m proud of the work that I do. Though the creative industry as a whole is not something that feels immediately accessible to many like me, and those from marginalised communities even more so, I can honestly attest that organisations like RTS are doing everything right in their championing of up-and-coming filmmakers. RTS allowed me to confidently call myself a writer for the first time. RTS allowed me to be in the room with the people I needed to be with to get the TV job I wanted. There will always be talented, creative people in the world, and organisations like RTS can take real, tangible steps to ensure that those people are seen and supported into having a career that allows them to flourish. I am living proof.